A CRACK IN THE SHELL #3
The melancholic cover illustration and subdued, no-nonsense logo/title design of this publication offer perfect indication of the tone and mood of the issue. Indeed, thematically the weight with which the previous Cracks have been imbued is maintained, and that sense of there being meaning lurking beneath the surface always present. I guess, as with previous issues, it's all about the frustration prompted by passivity, and the resentment that festers behind such assertive-lacking behaviour.
A collection of 'Wage Slave' strips account for much of this issue's content and continue with last issue's diluted themes of existentialism and helplessness in the face of societal expectation and enforced routine played out by a once cuddly toy bear, now wearied with the cynicism of experience and a work/drink prompted lethargy. Ranging in length from three-panel to fourteen-page, in the main they provide sound amusement, at times contain some absolutely lovely, neat artwork, and, with occasional shifts in rhythm, often prove strangely affecting. That said, the longer, main presentation 'Wage Slave', though spot-on in its observations, pales in comparison to the shorter, punchier efforts. Lacking a tightness in its scripting and in its design, it reads slightly sloppy, looks slightly sloppy, and the search for poignency toward story's end seems quite laboured. It's still a worthwhile effort, mind - the illustration is of a consistantly sound quality, and the message of the piece flies in the face of current self-help book favourite 'Who Moved My Cheese': ultimately change simply affects environment - no matter the hue, we simply substitute one stagnation for another.
Also on offer: 'Danny and Clare', an oddity of a short story that had me feeling lost and abandoned throughout. Similar to the experience of reading two pages ripped from the first draft of a novel-in-progress, it fails to read well, lacks direction and form, but provides good characterisation and dialogue that seems to ring true. More impressive though is the Charles Burns inkiness of the accompanying illustrations - some lovely stuff.
So, all-in-all a very worthwhile issue then that, as the 'How To' books say, successfully draws parallels between the particular and the universal, and is peopled with a character with whom we may share no detail, but with whom we connect on an emotional level.
Not wholly satisfying (what is?), but definitely worth a goo, A Crack In The Shell #3 is one pound, A5, 24 pages, from Philip Barrett, 32 Celtic Park Avenue, Beaumont, Dublin 9. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Review by John Robbins